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NOVEMBER NEWS- PART 2


SPOTLIGHT ON DEMOCRACY


A CRITICAL TIME FOR OUR REGIONS

 

A CRITICAL TIME FOR OUR NATIVE BIRDS


Even though less than half of one percent of the population fire shotguns at native birds for recreation, they are permitted to do so for up to a quarter of each year in Victoria, at thousands of public waterways. This effectively locks out other more popular recreations, and causes much angst to nearby residents. See community feedback here.

 

Swans are too often collateral damage. See here, here and here.

 

A Critical Time for Our Regions - Spotlight on Democracy

 

With over 1.6 million Victorians now living regionally, and times getting tougher for our businesses and farmers, responsible MPs should be asking these questions:  how many constituents live within 250m of bird shooting? When were safety risk assessments or a cost-benefit analysis done? What is the commercial risk of toxic lead contamination (in Victoria, from quail shooting) in our farm produce? Or the cost to taxpayers of lost tourism? It’s well-known shooting deters tourism.


Above: UComms Poll of 1031 metro and regional Victorians, in 2021 showed while most Victorians support a ban on duck shooting, the strongest support for a ban came from regional Victorians.

 

It's concerning that in their promotion of this minority choice of recreation, a few MPs often fail to disclose real or potential conflicts of interest. For example, the Nationals' leader has years of membership with Field and Game Australia (FGA), a hunt club which has received millions of taxpayer dollars (and whose chair owns a gun store). While some of his team are vocal in supporting native bird shooting, they're coy about disclosing their Captain's connections.

 

According to documents obtained through FOI and the club's own Annual Reports, FGA has received close to a million dollars just for Heart Morass, a wetland in Gippsland which is home to threatened species and supposedly protected by a Trust for Nature Covenant. Sadly, despite the Covenant, the hunt group is permitted to shoot native birds at the property. See the exemption here.


Many would agree:

 

  • It's inappropriate to allow gunfire at public waterways.

  • Taxpayers should not have to support a minority recreation that most oppose - the funds would be better spent fixing our roads, health systems, or natural environments.

  • Trust for Nature should demand cessation of recreational native duck and quail shooting at Heart Morass. (You can respectfully encourage them to do so here.)










 

Right: Peter Walsh - Deputy Leader of the Victorian Coalition - posing with the CEO of FGA. Source: Peter Walsh's Facebook page, August 31, the day the Report from Victoria's Inquiry into Native Bird Hunting was published.





 

A Critical Time for Our Native Birds: Alarming Long-Term Decline

 

The 41st annual East Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS) conducted by Professor Richard Kingsford's team at the Centre for Ecosystem Science University NSW in Oct/Nov 2023, has reported a mix of outcomes. In some areas as a result of La Nina rains there are finally some sightings of waterbirds. In other areas where waterbirds (and water) usually exist, sadly little if any are to be seen.

 

"...these small dams were only about half full. Like most large dams, these mainly had cormorants and pelicans"

 

"...only a few flooded rice growing paddocks. In the past these were extensive.... There were a few black duck and straw necked ibis plus the odd egret and white-faced Heron".

 

"There was a big difference between the Macquarie Marshes in 2023 compared to 2022. The extensive flooded areas with their vibrant green vegetation from last year were replaced, with dry reedbeds...."

  

The summary report of the 41st survey should be published in coming weeks.

 

As scientists say, it's long-term data that is key. Unfortunately that data shows a clear and alarming downward trend. See below graph.


Left: abundance index of our native "game ducks". Source: GMA 2023 Season Considerations (Trend line added)

 

*note in 2016, the abundance index was just 9416, so low that this datapoint appears indistinguishable from the horizontal axis.


It's clear "Game ducks" (those that can legally be shot for recreation), must be allowed the chance to breed and recover.

 

Climate Woes

 

Despite the current burst of rain, Australia had its driest August to October period since 1900. September was the driest on record. An extended hot, dry period (El Niño) is predicted.

 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) survey reports state that most "game duck" species (Blue-winged Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Shelduck and Pink-eared duck) have not proven to be resilient. Rather, these species have "not shown to respond predictably to changes in climate..." (p 17, 2023/24 Waterfowl Quota Report).

 

It is imperative our native waterbirds, many unique to our country, and the protected species so often caught in the crossfire, are protected from additional threats such as recreational hunting.

 

Below: Screenshots from recent alarming ABC news reports.



NSW "Pest" Mitigation

 

While pest control in NSW is not typically RVOTDS' area of concern, the issue of lead ammunition being used on food-producing fields, and the slaughter of the nation's native birds, is everyone's business.

 

First-up, according to a report by the CSIRO, ducks are not a "pest".  

 

“...ducks were not the pest rice-growers supposed them to be and ... much of the damage attributed to them was, in fact, caused by other factors”.

 

So why are shooters permitted to shoot ducks on NSW rice fields for "pest mitigation", in the dark, and with lead ammunition? Some duck species permitted to be shot don't even eat rice. In fact, Asian rice farmers use ducks to assist in farming. The ducks eat the real pests, invertebrates.

 

If NSW rice farmers are adamant ducks need controlling, there are of course other non-lethal, humane methods of control such as gas guns and laser devices.

 

It's concerning DPI - the NSW Department of Primary Industries - seem unaware of all the above. We thank Victorian hunt clubs for highlighting the bird shoot on the NSW rice-fields, by sharing DPI's advertisement calling for shooters.

 

Like Victoria's GMA, the DPI has been running its own bird "counts" in recent years (at taxpayers' expense) rather than simply accepting the EAWS evidence. The EAWS is the most expansive, long-term study of abundance trends for our native waterbirds. It does not rely on controversial computer modelling.

 

RVOTDS has written to NSW & federal Ministers querying DPI's latest report. Not only is it based on different methodology to last year's, but the mathematical modelling technique used to derive DPI’s duck population estimate has been roundly criticized by academics Link et al (2018)*. We have had confirmation the DPI report has not been independently peer-reviewed.

 

The NSW government has some urgent work to do it seems. In the meantime, more compelling reason for Victoria to ban native bird hunting post-haste.

 

*(See Link, W. A., Schofield, M. R., Barker, R. J., and Sauer, J. R. (2018). On the robustness of N-mixture models. Ecology 99, 1547-1551. doi:10.1002/ecy.2362.)

 

All Eyes on New Cabinet

 

On August 31, 2023, the Select Committee for Victoria's Parliamentary Inquiry into Native Bird Hunting, tabled its recommendation to ban native bird hunting on all public and private land.

 

The clock is ticking. If the government continues to delay acting on the recommendation, another native bird shoot will be upon us by default in just a few months. This would show contempt for the Inquiry’s work and contempt for growing numbers of regional constituents.

 

Regional Victorians - all Victorians - are watching. 

 




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